Thursday, 11 April 2013

265. Pied Piper Porky (1939)

Warner cartoon no. 264.
Release date: November 4, 1939.
Series: Looney Tunes.
Supervision: Bob Clampett.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Mel Blanc (Porky Pig), Danny Webb (Mouse -- and Cat?).
Animation: John Carey and Dave Hoffman.
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: Porky plays a Pied Piper, and has managed to clear all the rats out of town. All but one, a Rochester caricature, whom Porky fails to clear out.

The cartoon begins with a disclaimer gag where it notes about how the mice are obviously pure fictions in the cartoon; as well as the 'any resemblance' is 'purely co-incidental'...which of course, was very common back in 1930s motion pictures.

The title card disclaimer fades out where we find a horizontal pan going right; as our story takes place in Medieval times in the 'Ye town of Hamelin' in the lower part of Saxony, Germany--though is notorious for the folk-tale, of course, the Pied Piper of Hamelin. The backgrounds, probably by Dick Thomas, look very stylised and modern - and a rich feel for 14th century Germany. Among the crowds in the streets; we truck in where  a local newspaper screams with the headline: PIED PIPER RIDS TOWN of RATS! which is famous, according to folklore. The newspaper pans down to a caption reading: Piper's Feat Gives Mayor a Big Kick.

After the newspaper shot; we truck into Porky, who is inside his home, and Clampett already gets an unenthusiastic kick in bringing an off-screen chorus to sing about Porky as the Pied Piper. But, at least the song sequence at the beginning is very cheerful and lightening. Porky stutters as a chorus: 'I blew some corn and went right through my horn!'.

He then jams with his flute in this song sequence, as the off-screen chorus continue singing. Anyone happen to know the name of the song being sung by the off-screen chorus. I just know its going to be a popular song with substitute lyrics.

After the song is over, Porky hears the sound of an off-screen voice: 'That's good sonny, but that ain't the way I heard it!'. We pan to the right and find Porky hasn't got rid of one particular mouse who is a caricature of Eddie Anderson, and his voiced by Danny Webb. The audience, off-screen, screech 'A rat! A rat!' - a silly little Avery-esque gag which you would hear at pantomimes. Porky walks over to the mouse with vengeance: 'Y-You can't get away with that!'. Afterwards; the mouse jumps off the figurine and runs away from Pied Piper Porky. He nibbles himself a mousehole and blows a silly face towards Porky with a 'You can't catch me' attitude.

Porky walks over to the mousehole, and then makes an attempt to play his pipes to entice the mouse. He brings out a mousetrap and places it nearby the mousehole. He then plays with his flute to the theme of The Umbrella Man...oh I'll be having that in my head for days.

The black Rochester mouse then walks over, hypnotised through the pipe's music. After walking a few paces, he then stops and turns to the audience and remarks: 'If you think I'm going in there, you're crazy'.

I wonder whether that line is a radio reference or some it was used in a few more Warner cartoons like Wacky Wildlife. After the mouse dances, he jumps up on top of Porky's chest, holding onto his flute. He comments, holding onto it, 'This thing's no good, boss. Blow a hole!'. He snaps the flute in hat, gives the broken half to Porky, then he bounces off his nose and plays the pipe to Umbrella Man.

Another wit won by the black mouse as he enters back inside his hole. Porky looks at his broken pipe, and this time he gives it up as he slams it to the ground. He walks over, and (appears to be improvised by animation) he uses a box for Plan B.

He mutters, as he opens the box, 'That rat...can't do that to me'. The box already reads it's an old-fashioned mouse-trap. What makes it 'old-fashioned' is be pulls out a cat to help catch the mouse.

He orders the cat: 'Go get 'em--slapsy catsy!'. He sniffs inside the mousehole and then starts snarling. The cat impersonates John L. Sullivan with his posing, and breaks the forth wall by showing its fists. After the mouse steps out of the hole: some amusing personality animation appears where the cat slowly stops showing his fists. Much to Clampett's and Warners personal charm, the cat screams like a girl and he jumps out of the scene. The cat reacts frighteningly and lifting his blouse, afraid of the mouse (rhyming not intended). Afterwards, there's a close-up shot where he speaks in a Mexican accent: 'Me, a pussy cat, afraid of a teeny, weeny mouse'. He chortles to himself, and remarks 'So they're scary', admitting he is scared.

Afterwards; he then stands on top of the box, waiting, just waiting...for the next action. The mouse is also standing there. As the cat's plan was to catch the mouse in spontaneous timing--the mouse is too smart as this results in a chase sequence done in perspective.

Porky ends up being caught into a bowl of the cat's heads and the mouse fighting each other with that cartoony, early Clampett-esque effect. The fighting stops as they crash to a wall.

The chase sequence; and I like how Clampett arranged for the fighting and the background is displayed in panorama. The black mouse ends up cornered...but finds a way to outwit the cat by playing 'noughts and crosses'. The mouse draws up the game on the wall with a pencil; where the mouse uses noughts, and the cat uses crosses for the game.

The mouse wins as he manages to use the noughts diagonally. The Rochester-esque mouse comments: 'Hot dog, I win!'. He beeps the cat's nose and scrams. I quite like the characteristics of the cat in that cycle which combines with personality asides. The cat slams into a wall, as the mouse just makes it inside the mousehole. Well, of course, Bill Hanna would time that gag in Tom & Jerry (after this cartoon of course) but, even he would have at the unfunny timing there: Gee, I can sure think of an earlier cartoon where Clampett's timing on a similar gag was very funny..(Me thinking Rover's Rival).

The black cat reacts very terribly from the crash that is life is about to be taken away from him. After he faints on the floor; you find that Clampett already uses a gag famous for its common myths. The gag is nine of the cat's lives are about to be taken away, whereas the myth is cats are said to have nine lives.

Porky arrives at the spot on time, to save the cat's life. As the '9' ghost is about to drift away: Porky forces the ghost right back into the cat's soul. Why not, its a cartoon. He grabs out a bottle to revive the cat by giving him some catnip dynamite.

He pulls out the cork of the remedy bottle and pours it down his throat. There is some really 'fluid' animation where the liquid is seen noticeable around the cat's body and then the cat wakes up completely alert.

The '9' cat then warns the other lives through a trumpet call and they all dive down the cat's body; and even making him much more muscular. The cat then makes a really speedy start as he uses his legs to help increase his speed; and you can also hear the notorious sound effect...later to be used for the Tasmanian Devil. Porky watches the scene with hope the mouse will be completely ridded off. However, much to his surprise, the mouse walks out---completely indestructible and walks out as the cat is seen as the mouse's new fur coat'. A really dark gag ending, I'd say, and kind of disturbing..but its also amusing as Clampett has (in my opinion) created a funny character whose height can outnumber his enemies. The mouse comments with his new, dandy coat until he walks out posing.

Overall comments: Watching the cartoon itself--you can't help but feel Clampett's frustration of having to use Porky in every cartoon he directed by the end of 1939. Of course, that problem continued until another two years--so, Clampett is nowhere as near to finally abandoning Porky..although he did get the chance to direct non-Porky cartoons in 1941. Of course, other directors wouldn't use Porky too much in their cartoons; but the fact that Bob Clampett was only allowed to direct Porkies is the whole point...since Tex Avery and Chuck Jones inherited the colour cartoons, whilst Hardaway-Dalton had their share with directing a few Porky cartoons in 1938-39. Of course, Warren Foster didn't write the story (or least not credited) but he would revise the same storyline of Porky as a piper ten years later in the much more superior: Paying the Piper, directed by Bob McKimson. With Clampett's own issues asides; I must say..compared to many of Clampett's results this year: I'd consider this cartoon above the 'pass' mark.

True, Porky doesn't make much of a contribution and it may not present too much of Clampett's own wackiness, but the one character who steals the whole cartoon, is the mouse. The mouse really does resemble the wits of the character personality that the Warners guys were really hilarious at developing. I particularly like the mouse as he is a very witty little mouse, and also no matter how tiny he is...he has the knack of outsmarting all his enemies who are much more larger. The mouse really does have a lot of wackiness and charm which shows that Clampett, at least, put in a tad more effort than his other cartoons. While earlier he made really bland and horrible characters such as the ghost in Jeepers Creepers or Pinky in Porky's Picnic--yeah, I believe he made a hell of a mouse. You could say the cartoon would be an early idea for crafty characters like Bugs Bunny or Tweety; and I can really see the mouse most likely had an impact on the audience.


  1. 'This thing's no good, boss. Blow a hole!'.

    It's actually, "Fulla holes!"

  2. Slapsy Catsy is a reference to Slapsy Maxie Rosenbloom, a heavyweight champ turned actor and nightclub owner.

  3. Agreed on "Paying the Piper" being superioi, and the song sung at the beginning is Johnny Mercer and {?]Harry Warren's "Mutiny in the Nursery".